Lake County Settles Inmate Suicide for $2 Million

Lake County has agreed to pay $2 million to the family of a Santa Rosa woman who committed suicide in the county jail during an apparent drug-induced psychosis. The family’s attorney says he believes it’s the highest sum ever paid to settle the suicide of a jail inmate in California.

Dane Shikman says his mother Elizabeth Gaunt, 56, was clearly in danger when she was taken into county custody while under the influence of drugs in 2015. A vocational nurse who last saw her documented her hallucinations and erratic behavior. Yet Lake County Jail officials failed to contact a doctor or have her evaluated even after she requested help, the son's lawsuit claimed.

Gaunt later hanged herself in a sobering cell using a torn blanket. Postmortem testing showed she had toxic levels of methamphetamine in her system.

The county reached the $2 million settlement with Shikman last month, with the sum to be covered by insurance. The county refuses to comment on the agreement but had denied fault in Gaunt’s death.

Shikman and the county sheriff both say a number of changes have been implemented since Gaunt’s death. These include upgrading video monitors, using tear-resistant blankets, and new wellness check and mental evaluation protocols. Jail officials are also receiving new crisis response and suicide prevention training.


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